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Thomas Jackson is the Lead Writer for the Philadelphia Eagles blog, Eagles Eye.

Eagles Guide to Beating the Packers

It could be the best match of the NFC Wild Card games…Green Bay returns to the Linc in Philadelphia at 4:30 p.m. on Sunday to reprise their season-opening appearance last September. In reviewing that Week One 27-20 Packers victory, the teams on film were a lot different than the two teams that now head to the playoffs.  Both teams are better now than they were then.

The biggest difference is at the quarterback position for the Eagles. After Packers linebacker Clay Matthews knocked Kevin Kolb out of the game in the first half of that Week One game, Michael Vick took the reins of the Eagles offense and led an impressive comeback. This time, Vick will be under center from the start. Vick should be well-rested after suffering a thigh contusion two games ago. Vick has had to face more and more safety blitzes, zone blitzes and corner blitzes as the season progressed…and frankly, Vick was wearing down.

The offensive key for the Eagles is to keep Vick upright and clean and prevent big hits on their QB… and it’s incumbent upon Vick to get quicker reads on the Green Bay blitz and to make quick decisions to unload the ball to his running backs on screens and his tight ends on slants. Easier said than done, of course, since Green Bay will be bringing a fierce defensive rush led by Clay Matthews, who’s leading the league with 13.5 sacks, and cornerback Charles Woodson on the blitz.. Vick has to avoid getting tracked down by Matthews, and when he can get a clean pocket to throw from, he must hit his talented receivers (Jeremy Maclin, DeSean Jackson and Jason Avant) downfield and in stride.

Eagles outside linebacker Moise Fokou didn’t start in that first game, either, but he’ll be manning the strongside this time around to limit Green Bay’s running game and slow down their talented pass-catching tight ends. “We’re a different team from last time,” said Fokou, who became the starter as part of a move to reinforce the run defense. In Week One, the Packers ran for 132 yards and 4.0 yards per carry, while the Eagles held Aaron Rodgers to less than 200 yards passing and a 73.1 quarterback rating, his third lowest of the season. “We’re going to see if we can stop their run, make them one-dimensional and attack their quarterback.”

That’s the defensive key for the Eagles… try to limit the run while getting pressure on Rodgers. When Rodgers does throw to his outstanding receivers, the Eagles defensive backfield (which has seen several Game One starters lost to injury) needs to prove it can cover and adjust under pressure.

“At the beginning of the season, we were young, but I think a lot of guys have grown up,” said Eagles cornerback Joselio Hanson. “The Packers are a very good team, and I feel like when we played them the first game of the year, we had a chance to win that game, especially at the end. We did some things defensively on coverage that we’re trying to do better around here. We definitely want to get another shot at them and play better.”

Eagles strong safety Quintin Mikell added that it’s incumbent upon locker room leaders like him to deliver the message to some of the younger players how much different the playoffs are from the regular season. “All we can do is explain to the guys that it’s a different speed,” Mikell said. “It’s faster. It’s more intense. Every mistake is magnified and there’s not any room for error. I think we can tell the guys all day, but you really just have to experience it.”

Other key personnel matchups the Eagles must try to win: Eagles CB Asante Samuel vs. Packers star WR Greg Jennings… Eagles DT Antonio Dixon vs. Packers C Scott Wells… and Eagles Offensive Coordinator Marty Mornhinweg vs. Packers Defensive Coordinator Dom Capers.